The camping holiday is not necessarily something for everyone. You are either for or against the camping holiday. Indeed Mother Nature and her great outdoors brook no fence sitters, there is no room for neutral shades in a world of vibrantly coloured foliage, birds and bugs.
If you are a fence sitter, or indeed someone for whom the idea of sleeping out under the stars causes your heart rate to quicken and the first quivers of a full blown panic attack to start at the base of your spine, look away now!
Go do a cryptic crossword, take some rhubarb to your sullied pots, write a letter to your childhood pen pal or something else interminably dull and boring.
This article is for the campers, the outdoorsman, the river waders and nature hikers. Those for whom the five stars found in resorts aren’t worth the millions you can see at night by the light of the fire. For whom a sleeping bag is just as comfortable a place to sleep as any queen sized mattress or four-poster bed.
And what place better for it than fair Australia? From the coastal beaches to the desert red centre you are guaranteed to find some of the world’s most beautiful, awe inspiring landscapes. Jagged, snow dusted mountain peaks, verdant green valleys, crystal clear, meandering rivers, sandy dunes and magnificent rocky crags.
We’ve scoured the length and breadth of Australia from Tasmania to the Northern Territory and from the east coast to the west in search of some of the best campsites, caravan parks and campgrounds where you can pitch your tent
.So come gentle readers, strap on your pair of sturdiest walking shoes, fill up your backpack with essentials and make sure your sleeping bag has been properly stuffed, because we’re going camping.
Self-drive camping in Queensland
Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay (South Coast NSW)
Tell me more: Located approximately 150 kilometers south of Sydney, the beautiful, gleaming white sands of Jervis Bay are one of the region’s best-loved camping spots.
Three different campsites within the National park area are open year round for campers to enjoy: Green Patch, Bristol Point and Cave Beach. As all three names suggest each site is located on the water, by the dazzling white sand beaches of Jervis Bay, some of the whitest, most beautiful sand you’ll see anywhere in the world.
While the crystal blue waters of the Tasman are great for swimming and surfing, they are also perfect for fishing, boating and – perhaps most famously of all – scuba diving. Fill your tank up at the little town of Huskisson before exploring the rock formations off Murrays Beach.
There are also plenty of spots for keen anglers to drop in a line (so long as you’ve got a NSW fishing license, of course) but it might be best to check on the website or with a ranger what species you can and cannot take as a number of species are protected.
There’s also great whale watching to be had from spots like Cape St George Lighthouse. From there you’ll be able to see humpback and southern right whales migrating north between June and July to breed in the warm waters off the coast of Queensland.
Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula (South Australia)
Tell me more: South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula has long been the number one destination for surfers and fishermen alike.
Yorkes boasts sparkling clear waters, white sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, fascinating history and some of the best fishing and surfing in the country.
The National Park covers 92 square kilometres on the southwest tip of the peninsula, and is one of the most spectacular and untouched wildlife havens in Australia.
There are eight camping spots within the park which offer wilderness camping at its best. The campgrounds are small and have basic facilities including long-drop toilets, yet offer access to magnificent small coves, sandy beaches and rolling surf.
The most well known is Pondalowie Bay which is a famous surf beach and home to regular surf events. Pondalowie is also base to a large lobster fishing fleet.Yorke Peninsula’s waters provide some of the best fishing the state has to offer.
Even the most inexperienced fisherman can cast a line from the beach or jetty to catch squid, King George whiting, garfish, tommy ruff mullet, flathead and Australian salmon. There is an abundance of history in the area.
At the turn of the twentieth century many ships sank along the treacherous coast and the skeletons of around 40 shipwrecks are a hot spot for divers today.
As well as spectacular heritage and coastal scenery, Innes provides a wide variety of recreational activities including bushwalking and photography. AR
Dawson Spring, Mt Kaputar NP (NSW)
Tell me more: An hour or so drive north of the norther of Narrabri, you’ll find the stunning ecological island that is Dawson Spring, in the Mount Kaputar National Parklands.
One of the best views to be had anywhere in Australia. From the summit of Mount Kaputar, over 1500 meters above sea level you will find yourself with magnificent, 360 degree views of the sumptuous dry eucalypt forests and undulating hills of New South Wales’ North West Slopes.
It is said that on a clear day you’ll be able to see a tenth of the whole of the state stretching out around you from that one vantage spot. If you book enough in advance you can even secure a camping spot just off the mount’s summit where you’ll be able to wake up to that amazing view.
The region is also riddled with various hiking and nature walking trails, ranging from easy hour or so long jaunts to serious bushwalks through some rugged, mountainous country. The hike itself up to the summit of Mount Kaputar falls somewhere in between, but is well worth it.
The beautiful, old growth eucalypt forests and the temperate, sub-alpine climate mean the region is also alive with native fauna and flora. Ornithological enthusiasts will enjoy the bounty of native birdlife, while kangaroos, wallabies and wombats also wander around freely.
XXXX Island, Capricorn Coast (Queensland)
Tell me more: Yes, this is an island designed by a Queensland beer company and marketed as some kind of ultimate man-holiday, a chance for men to take a weekend away from their better halves and bro out with their mates.
Yet, fear not ladies you’re more than welcome too! While you can stay in any number of man themed cabins that have somewhat silly names like The Locker Room and House of Rock (quelle surprise) you can also stay in special Safari Tents that were import from South Africa.
These huge, purpose built tents are much more spacious than your average little dome and come complete with fold out beds, fresh pressed linen and electric lighting. It’s glamping at its finest.
XXXX Island is so full of things to do that the 48 hours or so you’ll have on this little slice of paradise simply wont be enough. Swim, kayak, play beach cricket, sunbathe, take a walking tour of the island, play with the island’s mascot, 18-month old kelpie, Spinner or play a one-hole round of golf while never having to leave the bar. Speaking of the bar, there are also plenty of opportunities to drink beer.
Halls Gap, The Grampians (Victoria)
Tell me more: Located deep in the heart of the breathtaking Grampians Mountain Range in Western Victoria, about 235 kilometers west of Melbourne lies the stunning Halls Gap, one of the most picturesque camping sites anywhere in Australia.
Nestled in amongst the stunning sandstone mountains that characterise this part of the world is the tiny town of Halls Gap that gives the campsite its name. The town has a pub and Brambuk – Australia’s longest running Aboriginal cultural centre and a population of around 200 people.
The cooler months are perhaps the best time of the year to visit the mountains as waterfalls, creeks and rivers are flowing at their strongest, and recent rains means waterways are full for fishing and canoeing.As far as activities go, there are things available for everyone, whether you’re looking to relax and get a little closer to nature or for something a little more exhilarating like rock climbing and abseiling.
The area is also dotted with a handful of beautiful wineries that utilise the mild, temperate climate to grow some of Australia’s best Shiraz and Pinot Noirs. Wineries are also a great place to sample some of the wonderful local food produce.
If none of that takes your fancy though, just waking up in the lush, misty green of the forests will put a smile on anybody’s face.
Mount Field National Park (Tasmania)
Tell me more: Just 64 kilometres north of Hobart lies Tasmania’s much loved Mount Field National Park. The park’s magnificent landscape ranges from eucalyptus temperature rainforest to 1434 metre high alpine terrain.The park essentially has two visitor areas, both of which are in extreme contrast to the other.
The first offers visitors relaxing picnic facilities, access to the famous Russell Falls and breathtaking walks through enormous fern covered rainforests containing some of the tallest trees in the world.
The second area is centred at Lake Dobson and offers alpine countryside, dramatic mountain scenery and skiing areas. Depending on snow conditions, vehicles travelling to the summit may require chains.
The National Park has campgrounds near the park entrance set in a picturesque forest by the Tyenna River. They offer excellent facilities including toilet and shower blocks, coin-operated washing machines, clothes driers, cooking facilities and hot water. AR
Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park (Northern Territory)
Outback Australia’s most impressive ancient sandstone region lies within the Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) in the Northern Territory.Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge is made up of 13 separate gorges linked by a maze of sandstone-framed waterways.
The waterways wind 12 kilometres through the idyllic landscape with walls more than 70 metres high.Visitors cruise in flat-bottomed boats, canoe, swim or walk to explore the magnificent gorges. The nearly 3,000 square kilometre National Park is owned by the Jawoyn Aboriginal people, who hold great ceremonial significance to the gorges and surrounding land.
There are numerous walking trails ranging from strolls along the riverbanks to overnight walks and a five-day walk from Nitmiluk Gorge to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The 58 kilometre Jatbula Trail passes waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, stone country and Aboriginal rock art, and ends at Leliyn, a tranquil camping ground near natural waterholes.
Unpowered campsites at Leliyn include toilet and shower facilities, gas barbeques and picnic furniture. There are powered sites at Gorge campgrounds and elsewhere in the park bush camping areas have been established for nomad walkers and canoeists to crash. AR
Springlawn National Park (Tasmania)
Tell me more: So abundant is the natural wildlife that roams this picturesque section of northern Tasmania that it has been dubbed the ‘Serengeti of Tasmania’. With such a variety of habitats in the park, birdlife is varied and prolific. But it is the humble pandelemon (a kind of wallaby/rat), wallaby and wombat that are the star attractions here.
The cute animals are very used to human beings, perhaps more so than they are anywhere else. As a result you’ll be bound to get up close and personal with some marsupials during your stay, as they will often graze right in by your campsite.
With the permission of a ranger you can also procure yourself some equine companions and set off on horse riding tours to help you explore the 4,349 hectares span of National Park.
There are plenty of walking tours ranging from the gentle half hour return stroll along Bird Hide Walk to the more challenging six to eight hour treks along the coastal traverse or the 400 metres summit of Mt Asbestos and Point Vision.
Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (Western Australia)
Tell me more: Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park at Cape Leeuwin in south-west Western Australia is renowned for its rugged coastline, windswept granite headlines and magnificent forest and rock formations. The rocky coast stretches 120 kilometres and offers excellent fishing, swimming, whale watching, world-class surf breaks, stunning bush walks and camping.
Boranup Karri Forest lies within the National Park between Caves Road and the coast where 60 plus metre tall karri trees tower over the steep hills and valleys.
The Boranup lookout provides sweeping views over the forest and coast. Australian humpback whales can be seen from the Cape Naturaliste coastline on their annual breeding migration travelling north from July and returning between October and December.
Popular surf breaks along the coast include Smiths Beach and Yallingup, whereas swimming and snorkelling is best found at Prevelly and Gnarabup. Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is also home to the spectacular self-guided Calgardup and Giants caves.
The National Park has several campgrounds with basic facilities including toilets, barbeques, picnic tables and water. There are also a selection of individual sites, some of which are located off the beaten track and should only be accessed by 4WD. The parks picnic and camping spots are connected by gravel roads suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles. AR
Stradbroke Island (Queensland)
Stradbroke Island or ’Straddie’ as it is referred to by locals, is a picturesque island south-east of Brisbane. The sand island is split into two by the Jumpinpin Channel.
North Stradbroke Island is the larger of the two, stretching 38 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide, while South Stradbroke Island is approximately 22 kilometres long and only 2 kilometres wide.
Only a short 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland, North Stradbroke Island offers an abundance of adventure activities including surfing, fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, 4WDriving and bushwalking. The island is renowned for its native wildlife.
The island, with it’s rich Aboriginal heritage, is home to the Quandamooka People who refer to it as “Minjerribah”.
There are 18 species of land mammals such as wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, koalas and bandicoots, as well as several reptile and bird species.
The marine wildlife include dolphins, turtles, manta rays, humpback whales and dugong. Both islands offer campgrounds ranging from powered sites and cabins to secluded beach camping sites nestled among the island’s iconic white sand dunes. AR
Photos:, TNT Images, Tourism Australia, Beth Wode